Article by Sara Bailey of www.TheWidow.net.
When a senior loses their spouse, there are myriad financial matters that need attending. This is tough on its own, but making it even harder is the fact that the loss of a life partner is one of — if not the most — trying time in a person’s life. Grieving and dealing with money matters don’t mix (and they shouldn’t have to). Here’s how you can help your loved one deal with the inevitable financial issues that arise in the aftermath of their loss.
Help Them Avoid Major Financial Decisions
The best decision your loved one can make following the death of their spouse is to make fewer big decisions. As Verywell Mind says, “Grief can feel all-consuming and inescapable, so it’s easy to understand the desire to simplify your financial situation right now. That said, you are probably not thinking clearly in the aftermath of the death.”
Steer them in the direction of handling what needs to be handled and not much more. Doing things such as selling their home or messing with long-term investments is better left alone.
Get the Ball Rolling on Government Benefits
If your loved one’s spouse was a veteran, they can receive a Survivors Pension benefit at any age (and long as they remain un-remarried). Check here for details on how to help them apply.
The big government benefit you’ll want to discuss with your loved one is Social Security. Anyone whose spouse was eligible (or was soon to be) can apply to receive a Social Security Survivors benefit. There will be a decision to make if your loved one is younger than 66 years old, however. They can take the benefits now and receive 70 percent or wait until standard Social Security age and receive 100 percent. Help them make this decision by going over their financial needs to see what makes sense for them.
Medicare is another consideration you’ll need to handle. For one, your loved one will need to inform the proper channels that they will no longer be paying their spouse’s premiums. Then they will need to begin thinking about what kind of coverage they need moving forward. One in three people with Medicare opts for an additional Medicare Advantage plan, which can help fill in the gaps in their health coverage.
Decide How to Handle Other Investment Accounts
If your loved one’s spouse managed other investment accounts or retirement accounts (401k), they’ll need to figure out what to do with those. Cashing out is not necessarily the right call, even after a death. Take some time to speak to a financial advisor about the various investments so that you can understand them better.
Focus on Getting Bills in Order
The most important financial planning your loved one can do right after their loss isn’t grand in scale — it’s the everyday stuff. You’ll need to help them close accounts (remember, you’ll need copies of the death certificate to do this — Kiplinger suggests 10 to 25 copies). Think about possible open subscriptions and services in the deceased’s name.
Among the things your loved one should consider settling up are any open credit cards tied to their spouse. These could affect their credit if left unattended. Have a sit-down with your loved one and figure out all of their monthly bills (utilities, insurance, mortgage, etc.) and help them formulate a budget moving forward.
And finally, two important matters: first, one final tax return needs to be filed. This tax return can be more confusing than a typical return, so it’s smart to set your loved one up with a skilled CPA. Next, remember to help them update their will. As Next Avenue notes, the death of a spouse oftentimes invalidates current wills.
The death of a spouse is a truly devastating event, and the last thing on your loved one’s mind should be money matters. Nevertheless, important things must be addressed. Help them get their financial house in order and be the angel they need during this trying time.